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How to make Bobotie – A South African Dish

Bobotie is a traditional South African dish that consists of a curry flavoured minced meat, topped off with an egg and milk based layer. Although its origins are not completely clear, we do know that it is a dish that beautifully demonstrates the fusion of cultures in South Africa with a colourful and fragrant result.

There is more than one theory with regard to where the word ‘bobotie’ comes from. Some argue that the name comes from the Malayan word ‘Boemboe’, which translates to ‘curry spices’. Yet others are of the opinion that it refers to the Indonesian ‘bobotok’ dish, which consists of meat with a custard topping.

What we do know is that the end result of Bobotie, speaks of the influence of food and spices brought with the culture of imported slaves from Java and Indonesia in the 1600’s. Infused with *Cape Malayan spices, Bobotie is anything but bland. Its fragrant taste can be contributed to spices such as cumin, coriander and cloves. (*Cape Malay/an refers to a cultural group that is of Muslim orientation and not necessarily from a particular region in Malaysia)

You have to try this delicious dish during your educational visit to South Africa. If you would like attempt cooking it yourself, you can follow the recipe below:

Recipe by Salwaa Smith:


2 slices white bread (preferably a couple of days old)

2 Tbsp cooking oil

1 large chopped onion

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp crushed garlic

salt to taste (approx 5ml)

3 tsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

500g minced meat (lamb or beef)

1 large egg

2 Tbsp lemon juice

6 bay leaves


For the topping:

3 large eggs

1 cup milk



Set your oven to 180° Celsius (or 356 Fahrenheit) and preheat. Then pour cold water to cover over the slices of bread and leave to soak. Now fry the onions in oil until they are soft and change colour (about 10 minutes). Then add your cloves, garlic, salt, curry powder, 2 of the bay leaves and turmeric. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes (add 2 Tbsp water if necessary to prevent the onions from sticking).

In a separate bowl, combine the minced meat with your onion mixture, eggs, lemon juice and sugar. Squeeze the water from the bread and mix until well blended.
Tip your mixture into an ovenproof dish (23 x 33cm and about 5-6cm deep). Press it down well and smooth the top. Now you are ready to bake the Bobotie in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. *At this stage, you can use a fork to even out mixture.

For the final step: Mix the eggs and milk together and pour the mixture over the Bobotie. This forms the egg-based topping.
You now return your dish to the oven and bake grill a further 5 -10 minutes until the egg mixture has cooked and the top of the Bobotie and becomes a beautiful, brown colour.
*Serve with almond yellow rice, braised rice, vegetables and mango chutney.

For more Cape Malayan recipes visit: